Visions of a seven-to-eight-mile walk and bike pathway surrounding the Bayonne peninsula took a step forward this week when city and state officials were joined by Gov. Phil Murphy to announce funding for a three-quarter-mile walkway on the Newark Bay waterfront connecting Veterans Stadium and Bayonne High School to 16th Street Park.It was once part of a narrow path carved by kids through overgrown brush that extended south underneath the Bayonne Bridge to Dennis Collins Park. Now, the area will be renovated for recreation, with shaded seating, trees, benches, and a view of the bay.
Mayor James Davis was on the stump during the May 4 event, celebrating his recreation initiatives by announcing the start of construction for an area he frequently traveled as a kid to get back and forthfrom school, sports, and his home in Bergen Point.
“As a mayor, I can’t think of anything better than to hand the waterfront over to our own people to enjoy,” Davis said. “We live on a peninsula. To be able to start using that property, using the views for the enjoyment of ourselves, our citizens, and our children, I can’t ask for anything more.”
“This is what it looks like when you have state and local government working together seamlessly,” Murphy said. “If you’re the Peninsula City, you better darn well take advantage of the waterfront and the exposure. I personally think this is a game changer. I think it’s going to be a homerun for Bayonne. It’s another reason to get folks to come here, to come to Hudson County, to come to New Jersey. Whether it’s to walk along the promenade, to buy a home, and everything in between.”
The $1 million project is partly funded by a NJ Department of Environmental Protections (DEP) Green Acres grant, as well asfunds from a 2014 lawsuit settlement between the DEP and several industrial chemical companies. Those companies had discharged dioxin, adangerous, cancer-causing chemical, and other contaminants, into the Passaic River, which flows into Bayonne’s waters.
“If you’re the Peninsula City, you better darn well take advantage of the waterfront advantage and the exposure.” – NJ Gov. Phil Murphy
Recreation a jewel
City officials have envisioned the walkway continuing south of 16th Street Park through a vertical park underneath the Bayonne Bridge, but nothing has been planned. Meanwhile, the former Texaco site on Bayonne’s southern tip is slated for a walkable and cyclable pathway surrounding it.
Much of Bayonne’s shoreline has been improved in recent years, including a chromium cleanup at Rutkowski Park and the restoration of natural vegetation there and at Lefante Way on the city’s eastern shore; athletic field improvements at Hudson County Park; a redesigned Dennis Collins Park; and the beginnings of an eastern shoreline walkway connecting Lefante Way and South Cove Commons to the former Military Ocean Terminal Base.
Green Acres funds were announced in 2017. Now the city is moving past planning stages, ensuring parts of a contiguous walkway are in place elsewhere, often in partnership with private companies, which are already redeveloping that land.
Developers on the former Military Ocean Terminal Base have included in their plans a walkway on the southern shoreline of the base that would lead to a potential ferry terminal. That same path would travel south to a Costco and South Cove Commons, the site of a number of stores, including a future Starbucks. South Cove developer, the Alessi Organization, has revamped the shopping complex to better accommodate pedestrians and cyclists. Meanwhile, the walkway along Lefante Way offers a scenic route, favored by birders and other nature lovers. To get to Dennis Collins Park, pedestrians and cyclists will have to cross Route 440 either via a crosswalk at 21st Street or an overpass walkway at 34th Street.
When all is said and done, the hope is, the Hudson Riverfront Walkway will be a contiguous path from Fort Lee to Bergen Point and back up the Bergen Neck into Jersey City. Many hope it can one day effectively connect to Newark’s Ironbound district via the old Morris Canal, which is slated to become a contiguous interstate walkway park.
“So many will have the opportunity to enjoy one of Bayonne’s natural gifts, and that’s this water,” said State Senator Sandra Cunningham. Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti, Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, and Bayonne City Council members also attended the press conference. “This view is phenomenal, and this whole project will be great,” Cunningham summed up.“And It’s especially important today because our governor is here with us.”
Rory Pasquariello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.